Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society
By Yi Whan-woo
SEOGWIPO, Jeju Island _ Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, has called for the support of the international community to overcome the conflict between economic development and the need to preserve biodiversity.
He said Thursday that collaboration between countries is crucial to save 55,000 endangered species, including 19,000 that are on the “Red List.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) issues the list of animals and plants that are in danger of extinction within a year or two.
“We have come to realize that economic growth and social justice cannot be achieved at the expense of the environment,” Samper said at a meeting with the audience and media at the International Convention Center on the second day of the 2012 World Conservation Congress.
“And reducing greenhouse gas emissions without hampering industry and economic growth are the questions and challenges we have to discuss,” he said. “We should leverage new technologies to improve the exchange of information for conservation to protect species and ecosystems in order to make sure they are around for future generations.”
Samper, former director of the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History, pointed out a case that involves passenger pigeons that were once the most abundant bird species on the planet with a population estimated to have exceeded 5 billion.
Industrial development in the 19th century resulted in an unprecedented scale of transformation in the landscape of the United States, according to Samper.
The construction of railways across the nation opened new frontiers for agriculture to provide natural resources for large urban areas. At the same, the habitat of the passenger pigeon was seriously damaged and destroyed. The human threat to the environment eventually saw the last passenger pigeon, named Martha, die in the end in December 1914.
“Our impact extends well beyond land and into the ocean, where sharks are being fished extensively. The good news is that we can do something about this together and avoid repeating Martha’s story.”
He said that the Jeju congress is especially important in a way because the conference is taking place in Asia which is now going through many of the changes that took place in North America a century ago.
“It is this aspiration that brings us together today on Jeju and will inspire our work over the next 10 days. Working together, we can help shape a future in which people live in harmony with nature,” he said.